Building a natural backlink profile

With the backlink profile We mean the total of incoming backlinks pointing to your website. For your website’s authority, a natural growth of backlinks is natural. Building such a natural backlink profile is a long and costly process, but essential to your overall marketing strategy. Together with a good content strategy and technical search engine optimization (SEO), this forms the basis of a successful SEO campaign. In this guide, I tell you all about forming a natural backlink profile and the way I go about a link building process.

First, what is important in building a backlink profile?

Link building is an important part of search engine optimization. This is because it helps increase your website’s visibility in organic search results. Here are some things to look out for when starting link building:

  • Relevance: make sure the links you obtain are relevant to your website. A link from a website that is in the same industry as you is often more valuable than a link from a website for which that is not true.
  • Authority: try to get links from websites with high authority. Websites with high authority, or high online influence, have more value to search engines.
  • Quality: the quality of the link is also important. Links from websites with a good reputation and reliable content are of value. Prefer to avoid links from websites with lesser reputations and spammy content (content with no value to the reader).
  • Diversity: make sure you obtain links from different types of websites, such as blogs, news websites, forums and social media platforms. This gives a natural-looking link profile.
  • Anchor text: use varied and relevant anchor text in the links. When you overuse the same anchor texts, search engines may see it as spammy. This results in a lower ranking in the organic search results.
  • Naturalness: links should be obtained naturally. Overuse of automated link building can get you a penalty from search engines.
  • Stay up to date: link building is constantly changing. By knowing the latest developments in search engine algorithms, you can adjust your link-building strategy accordingly.

Be aware that link building is a lengthy process. Usually it takes quite some time before the results become visible. So it is important to be patient and work regularly to obtain relevant, quality links.

How do I analyze a backlink profile?

My roadmap is simple and relatively short in analyzing a backlink profile (of course, it depends on how deep we want to dig). For most profiles, this is sufficient.

Step 1: Getting a picture of the profile

There are several ways to export all links pointing to a Web site. I use two options. Ahrefs and the Google Search Console (for Ahrefs, see the image below and the Google Search Console the image below again).

For both overviews, I create an export of the links. For most of the analysis I do, I stay with Ahrefs as much as possible, but it’s always nice to make sure we have a complete picture.

Beyond these exports, I create another export, which is a “best links” export from Ahrefs (see image below).

What I can easily see with this is the amount of quality links (at least, according to Ahrefs) that a website obtains.

Step 2: analyze the data

I merge everything into one summary (Google Spreadsheets) with which I extract the following. You can merge the links from the Google Search Console by doing a batch analysis of these domains and correctly insert the DR and organic traffic per website in this with vertical search. Then remove duplicates to make sure you are not working with duplicates and get an accurate understanding of the number of links.

  1. Filter by DR: With a simple overview, take a moment to see how many higher DR link entries I obtain.
  2. Filter on organic traffic: At least as important as the DR is the organic traffic to a Web site.
  3. Filter for dofollow/nofollow subdivision of links. This is an important one, you don’t want to just get dofollow links to a domain (this is unnatural).

With this brief analysis, you can already make an initial judgment about a backlink profile without having too much experience within the concept of link building.

Methods for building a natural backlink profile

Building a natural backlink profile is an important part of any SEO strategy. Here are some methods and their respective advantages and disadvantages:

  1. Content creation & marketing
    • Benefits: Quality content attracts natural backlinks. It provides value to your audience, and if people find your content useful, they will link to it. It also helps position your brand as an authority.
    • Disadvantages: Creating high-quality content takes time and resources. It may also take some time before you see results.
  2. Guest blogging
    • Benefits: It allows you to share your expertise on other websites, which expands your reach and increases opportunities for backlinks. It can also help build relationships with other experts in your industry.
    • Disadvantages: It can be difficult to find guest blogging opportunities and it requires time and effort to write quality posts. It can also be misused for link building, which can lead to penalties from search engines if not done properly.
  3. Link exchange
    • Advantages: It’s a quick way to get backlinks, and it can also help build relationships with other websites.
    • Disadvantages: Google is not fond of this practice and can penalize websites that engage in excessive link exchanges. It’s also important to make sure the links are relevant to your content.
  4. Infographics
    • Benefits: Infographics are visually appealing and easy to share, which can lead to natural backlinks.
    • Disadvantages: Creating attractive, informative infographics can be time-consuming and expensive. Moreover, there is no guarantee that people will link to it.
  5. Social media promotion
    • Benefits: Social media can extend your reach and bring your content to the attention of people who might link to your site.
    • Disadvantages: While social media can increase your visibility, links from social media are usually “nofollow” links, meaning they do not directly contribute to your SEO.
  6. Local citations & directory listings
    • Benefits: They can be a source of backlinks and can also help increase your visibility in local searches.
    • Disadvantages: Not all directories are created equal – some may be seen as spammy by search engines, so it is important to be selective.

It is important to remember that a good backlink profile is all about quality, not quantity. The goal should always be to get backlinks from reputable sites relevant to your content.

The importance of website relevance

The relevance of a website backlinking to your page weighs heavily for search engines like Google and Bing. For example, is a particular website about cars and does it post a link to another website that is also about cars? If so, this is a valuable link for the host website. In fact, search engines see this link as a recommendation from a relevant website. This helps to obtain a higher position in search results for searches related to cars.

However, is the link from a website that is not relevant to the receiving website? Then that link value may become lower and even negatively impact the position in the search results of the host website. This is the case, for example, when a Web site about cars links to a Web site about fashion.

Another example of relevant link building would be if a Web site that is about gardening links to another Web site that is also about gardening. For example, it may contain specific information about growing tomatoes. This is valuable to the host website. In fact, it is recommended by another website relevant to the topic of growing tomatoes. Search engines value the link higher because it is relevant to searches related to growing tomatoes.

Authority

The authority of a Web site is a measure of its reliability and reputation. Several factors, such as the quality and relevance of the content, the quality and relevance of the links pointing to the website, the age of the website and the reliability of the domain name determine authority.

You can measure the authority of a website through a score that various SEO tools assign to it. Examples of such tools are Moz’s Domain Authority and Ahrefs’ Domain Rating. The scores come about due to several factors. The number of quality inbound links and the relevance of those links play a big role in this. The quality and relevance of website content and its historical performance in search engines also contribute to authority.

Search engines consider a website with high authority more reliable and valuable than one with low authority. For that reason, links from a website with high authority generally have more value.

Of course, authority is only one of many factors that affect a website’s organic ranking. Other factors include content relevance and quality, website user experience and loading speed.

What do I mean by the quality of a website in a backlink profile?

By the quality of a website, I mean how valuable, informative and useful its content is to users. Several factors affect the quality of a Web site:

  • Relevance: the goal of search engines like Google is to provide the user with the most relevant content possible. Therefore, website content must be relevant to the search query or topic the user is looking for.
  • Useful and valuable content: website content should be useful and valuable to the user. This means, for example, that it provides information that helps solve a problem or make a decision.
  • Reliability: website information must be reliable and accurate. Users must have confidence that the information they read on the website is accurate and current.
  • User experience: the website must provide a good user experience. This includes easy and intuitive navigation and short loading time(1).
  • Design: website design should be professional and visually appealing. In doing so, the layout should be user-friendly and include good typography.

A high-quality website attracts more links from other websites. Thus, it generates more traffic. Remember, creating valuable and relevant content for users should always be paramount. Search engines typically reward websites with these features with a higher ranking in organic search results.

Ensure diversity within the backlink profile

In link building, diversity in the websites from which you obtain links is important. In fact, this will make your backlink profile more natural. It also prevents search engines from considering the links as spammy or unnatural(2). A diverse link profile means that you obtain links from different types of websites and domains and not just from a specific niche, location, or type of website. Below are some important considerations regarding website diversity in link building:

  1. Different types of websites: it is important to get links from different types of websites. You can think of blogs, forums, news websites, social media platforms and more. This creates a natural-looking link profile. After all, the links seem to have been obtained naturally.
  1. Different domains: it is also important to get links from different domains. That way, the links appear to come from different sources. Are your links right from the same domains? Then there is a risk that search engines will consider it unnatural or even spammy.
  1. Different IP addresses: it is also useful to obtain links from websites that have different IP addresses. In fact, search engines may consider links from the same IP address as less valuable.
  1. Varied anchor texts: make sure you use varied anchor texts for the links you obtain. This means that you don’t always use the same keywords as anchor text, but different variations and synonyms. This will make your backlink profile look much more natural.
  1. In short, creating a diverse backlink profile is critical. One way to do this is to get links from different types of websites, domains, and IP addresses. In addition, varied anchor texts are important. This way you increase the value of your link profile and reduce the risk of penalties by search engines.

Provide a natural anchor text profile

Proper subdivision of the anchor text (anchor text) profile in link building is important for a balanced and natural-looking link profile. This way, you prevent search engines from considering the links as spammy or unnatural(4). Below I have noted some guidelines you can use when subdividing your anchor text profile:

  • Brand name anchor texts: use about 20-30% of your anchor text profile to include the name of your brand, website or company. For example, “OpenAI,” “OpenAI Blog,” or “openai.com.”
  • Exact match anchor texts: use no more than 10-20% of your anchor text profile to use exact match anchor texts. These are anchor texts that are exactly the same as the keywords you want to rank for in search engines. Limited use of exact match anchor texts helps increase the relevance of your page for these keywords. Excessive use of it is actually considered spammy by keywords. Consider, for example: “AI applications,” “AI technology” or “Artificial Intelligence news.”
  • Partial match anchor texts: use about 20-30% of your anchor text profile to use partial match anchor texts. These are anchor texts where you use partial keywords or variations of keywords. For example, “artificial intelligence applications,” “SEO expert” or “SEO specialist.”
  • Generic anchor texts: use about 20-30% of your anchor text profile to use generic anchor texts. Examples include “click here,” “read more,” “view this article” and so on.
  • Varied anchor texts: use variety in your anchor texts so it looks natural. This means you don’t always use the same anchor texts for the same pages. You should also use synonyms or variations of keywords.

The exact proportion of anchor texts in your link profile depends on several factors. These include your niche, competition, and the specific keywords you want to rank for. A balanced distribution of anchor texts helps create a natural-looking link profile. It also reduces the risk of penalties by search engines(5).

Avoid automated link building

Automated link building is the process of using software or tools to automatically generate links to a Web site. This is often done with spammy techniques such as comment spam, forum spam, link farms and private blog networks (PBNs). These techniques are designed to trick the search engines by generating unnatural links to a Web site. The consequence of those techniques is actually the manipulation of search engine ranking.

Automated link building has been associated with black hat SEO. This term refers to techniques that violate search engine guidelines. Therefore, they can lead to penalties or banning from search results. Using automated link building tools violates the guidelines of search engines such as Google. After all, with these techniques, you are trying to trick the algorithm instead of creating and sharing valuable content yourself.

So from automated link building it is better not to use it. Instead, it is advisable to focus on creating valuable and relevant content for users. That way, you will obtain your backlinks naturally. This means investing in content marketing and building relationships with other websites within your industry. It is also important to share your content on social media and actively participate in your niche’s online community. This way, you will obtain sustainable and valuable links in the long run. These not only help improve your search engine ranking, but also build your reputation and brand.

Continue reading about backlinks and link building outsourcing

What does a healthy backlink profile look like?

A healthy backlink profile contains different types of links, from a variety of websites. How can you assess the health of a backlink profile? Below I have noted some tips for you:

  1. Diversity of sources: your backlinks should come from different types of websites, such as news websites, blogs, forums, business pages and so on.
  1. Authority of sources: choose a small number of high-quality links rather than many links from lower-quality websites. So, in other words, don’t focus on quantity.
  1. Relevance of sources: your links should come from websites relevant to the topic of your target page.
  1. Natural ratio of dofollow to nofollow links: although dofollow links are more valuable for your SEO purposes, a natural ratio of dofollow to nofollow links is necessary. This makes the link profile look more natural to search engines.
  1. Geographic distribution: links from different regions and countries contribute to the natural diversity of your link profile.

Keep in mind that the guidelines described in this article are general suggestions. Thus, they need not be specific to each search engine. Regardless, it is always best to build a natural link profile. Links to poor quality websites and participation in suspicious link-building practices are best avoided per se.

Methods to achieve a healthy backlink profile

As an SEO expert, I use several methods to provide a healthy backlink profile for my clients. When a client applies with an unnatural profile, it is important to change this as soon as possible.

Use the competitor who is doing well in your market

Viewing a competitor’s backlink profile can be done in several ways. Below are some methods:

  • Manual research: you can do manual research in the first place. You do this by looking at your competitor’s website and looking for links pointing to them. For example, look at the website’s source code and look for links marked with the “a” tag. You can also search for links in the website footer. However, this method is time-consuming and, in addition, you are unlikely to “detect” all links.
  • Backlink analysis tools: there are several tools available that allow you to analyze a competitor’s backlink profile. For example, tools such as Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz offer detailed analysis of a website’s backlink profile. In addition, they give you information about the domains pointing to the website, the anchor texts used and the quality of the links. The tools often also provide information about the authority of the domains pointing to the website and the keywords used.
  • Google Searches: third, you can also use Google searches to find your competitors’ backlinks. For example, you can perform the following search: “link:www.example.com” to find all pages that link to your competitor’s website. You can combine this search with keywords to find more specific results.

Seeing a competitor’s backlink profile can offer valuable insights into their link-building strategy. This helps you identify the opportunities you have to improve your own backlink profile. In doing so, avoid focusing solely on imitating your competitor’s link building strategy. Instead, also focus on creating unique and valuable content for your own target audience.

Obtain link entries that are qualitative

Obtaining link entries from competitors can be an effective way to obtain valuable links to improve your own link profile. Want to obtain link entries from your competitors? Below are some steps you can take to do this:

  • Analyze competitor links: use a backlink analysis tool such as Ahrefs, SEMrush or Moz. This allows you to list the links that point to your competitor’s website. Analyze the list and identify links that are of high quality. Which ones are relevant to your niche and can bring an increase in value to your website?
  • Identify opportunities: have you identified your competitors’ links? Then consider what your chances are of getting links from the same websites. Contact the owners of these websites and ask them to link to your website. In doing so, tell them how relevant and valuable your website is to their target audience as well.
  • Create better content: does your competitor have links from websites relevant to your niche, but do they not link to your website? If so, this could be a sign that you need to improve your content. Therefore, first, make sure that you create valuable and relevant content that is better than your competitor’s. Then send a request to website owners to list your content.
  • Strengthen your position: if your competitor’s website has many high-quality links, it probably means that his content is highly valued in your niche. Instead of trying to get their links, it may be better to strengthen your own content and position in the niche. Thus, you too can obtain links from those same websites in the future.

Obtaining links from competitors can be an effective strategy to obtain valuable links and improve your link profile. Remember, however, that your main focus should be on creating valuable content and building relationships with other websites in your niche. This is ultimately a better long-term strategy rather than exclusively taking advantage of your competitor’s link building strategy.

Don’t be afraid of nofollow link entries

Nofollow links are links provided with the nofollow attribute. This is code that tells search engines not to follow the link and not to pass link juice to the linked page. By link juice, we mean the value a backlink brings to another site. Nofollow links are often used for links to advertisements, sponsored content, comments, social media profiles and other links that have no value to search engine rankings.

Nofollow links have less value than dofollow links. Still, they are important in a backlink profile because they help create a natural-looking link profile. A natural link profile contains not only dofollow links, but also nofollow links, which are used to prevent search engines from passing link juice to the linked pages(3).

Although nofollow links have no direct impact on search engine ranking, they do enhance the naturalness and credibility of a link profile. Search engines may therefore consider a backlink profile with only dofollow links to be unnatural or spammy. That, in turn, can lead to a drop in search engine ranking or even a penalty.

Nofollow links can also indirectly contribute to search engine ranking. They do this through referral traffic and increasing the visibility and brand awareness of your website. Moreover, nofollow links can be valuable for building relationships with other websites and increasing your brand’s authority and reputation.

So we can safely conclude that nofollow links are also essential to your backlink profile. Still, it is important to remember not to focus exclusively on this within your link-building strategy. It is important to aim for a natural-looking link profile that includes both dofollow and nofollow links. Both should come from relevant, reliable and high-quality websites in your niche.

Be consistent in forming your backlink profile

Consistency is an essential factor in link building. Only then can you really call a link building strategy effective. This is because building a high-quality link profile takes time. Consistent link building helps strengthen your website’s authority and reputation.

Moreover, consistency can help increase brand awareness of your website and create value for your target audience. Do you regularly create valuable content? Are you building relationships with other websites in your niche? When you slowly but surely work on your link building strategy, you build a strong and healthy link profile. This helps your website with its growth and development.

What are pitfalls in forming a healthy backlink profile?

Several pitfalls exist when building a backlink profile. Below I have listed some of the most common ones for you:

  1. Too many low-quality links: avoid obtaining too many low-quality links, as this may be considered spammy or unnatural. Search engines will give your website a lower ranking as a result, but it can also even result in a penalty. It is better to focus on getting high-quality links from relevant and reliable websites in your niche.
  2. Too many exact match anchor texts: search engines also consider the use of too many exact match anchor texts to be spammy. It is better to vary with different types of anchor texts, such as brand name, partial match and generic anchor texts. This is how you create a natural-looking link profile.
  3. Link exchange or link cross-reference: exchanging links with other websites, also known as link cross-reference, is considered spammy by search engines. It can therefore lead to punishment. Therefore, rather focus on getting organic links from other websites in your niche through valuable content and relationship building.
  4. Buying links: buying links violates search engine guidelines. When search engines detect this, your search engine ranking drops. Also, you can get a penalty. So never go about buying links, but focus on getting organic links. you do this with valuable content and building relationships with other websites.
  5. Ignoring website quality: examine the quality of the website on which you obtain links. Besides being of high quality, can it be called reliable and relevant? Only then will links from this website do your search engine ranking and reputation good. Low-quality websites have just the opposite effect.

Want to obtain valuable links? Then it is important to focus on creating valuable content and building relationships with other websites in your niche. You should also avoid using spammy link-building techniques or buying links. High-quality links from reliable and relevant websites are your main goal.

Conclusion

A healthy backlink profile is composed of referring domains that are diverse and qualitative. Link entries should contain both dofollow and nofollow attributes. In doing so, the backlink profile must be built consistently. Building a good profile in one month is not possible. It is more realistic to assume a period of at least two years in this regard. By keeping this in mind, you create the most natural-looking backlink profile possible.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
Five stars
My clients give me a 5.0 on Google out of 75 reviews

I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 22 March 2024. The last update of this article was on 22 March 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.